Today in Applied Demonology

Ghosts Only Cars Can Perceive

Researchers have shown that fake, drone-projected street signs can spoof driverless cars. Amazingly, these fake street signs can apparently exist for only 100 milliseconds and still be read as "real" by a car's sensing package. They are like flickering ghosts only cars can perceive, navigational dazzle imperceptible to humans.

As if pitching a scene for the next Mission: Impossible film, Ars Technica explains that "a drone might acquire and shadow a target car, then wait for an optimal time to spoof a sign in a place and at an angle most likely to affect the target with minimal 'collateral damage' in the form of other nearby cars also reading the fake sign." One car out of twenty suddenly takes an unexpected turn.

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Today in Applied Demonology

TV ad trolls the live surveillance mic in your house:

The 15-second ad triggers Google devices with the command, "Ok Google, what is the Whopper burger?" The spot will run nationally during primetime starting Wednesday [...]

Here's where we encountered the major flaw with Burger King's ad. Someone had edited the Whopper's Wikipedia page to say that the burger is made of a "medium-sized child," instead of beef patty, and that it contains the toxic chemical Cyanide.

Burger King later edited the Wikipedia page to a more accurate description of the burger. But people keep changing it.

On Wednesday afternoon, the definition had been changed to: "The Whopper is the worst hamburger product sold by the international fast-food restaurant chain Burger King and its Australian franchise Hungry Jack's."

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Today in Applied Demonology

Animism has truly returned to the world when even your dong can't be trusted.

"Hackers Can Easily Hijack This Dildo Camera and Livestream the Inside of Your Vagina (Or Butt)"

"Of course, this is not the first dildo to get hacked."

It's good that they included that parenthetical, because otherwise I might not have thought of that.

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Today in Applied Demonology

kyliu99 "The next iPhone will be, I am told, a clear piece of glass." Magic, my friends, is real. We do not need engineers. We need wizards!
"Oh & also, evil sorcerers crippled our divination network Friday by getting millions of coffee makers & lightswitches to shout real loud"
"The problem, it turns out, is that smart coffee makers and lightswitches are pretty dumb, so it's easy to convince them to do stuff"
"Defense Against the Dark Arts specialist Bruce S asked, 'Why enchant your coffee maker so it can talk, just not to you?'"
cstross From 1990-2015 we were living in an 80s cyberpunk dystopia. 2016-2040: it's morphing into urban fantasy.
We're even close to getting rich, deranged, long-lived vampires.
Man, living in an urban fantasy universe has got to suck EVEN HARDER than living in a cyberpunk dystopia.
I mean, forget the Vampire LeStat or sparkly teen-stalkers, we're getting objectivist billionaire Trump-supporter vampires!
mhoye "Objectivist Billionaire Trump-Supporting Wannabe-Vampire" seems like a pretty snug Venn diagram. Lot of semantic redundancy there.
cstross I Thiel your pain.
jwz "Internet of Things as Applied Demonology" is my favorite part of this dystopia! We've actually implemented Animism. It's glorious.
How can we do a greater favor for our paranoid schizophrenic brothers and sisters than by literally making their dreams come true?

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Today in "Internet of Things as Applied Demonology" news:

"I stayed in a hotel with Android lightswitches and it was just as bad as you'd imagine"

The hotel I'm staying at has decided that light switches are unfashionable and replaced them with a series of Android tablets. One was embedded in the wall, but the two next to the bed had convenient looking ethernet cables plugged into the wall. So. [...]

And then I noticed something. My room number is 714. The IP address I was communicating with was They wouldn't, would they?

I mean yes obviously they would.

It's not as bad as it could be - the only traffic I could see was from the 207 subnet, so it seems like there's a separate segment per floor. But I could query other rooms on my floor to figure out whether the lights were on or not, which strongly implies that I could control them as well. [...] Hotels are happily deploying systems with no meaningful security, and the outcome of sending a constant stream of "Set room lights to full" and "Open curtain" commands at 3AM seems fairly predictable.

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Internet of Things as Applied Demonology

The price of the Internet of Things will be a vague dread of a malicious world

Volkswagen didn't make a faulty car: they programmed it to cheat intelligently. The difference isn't semantics, it's game-theoretical (and it borders on applied demonology).

[...] Test the energy efficiency of a lamp, and you'll get an honest response from it. Objects fail, and sometimes behave unpredictably, but they aren't strategic, they don't choose their behavior dynamically in order to fool you. Matter isn't evil.

But that was before. Things now have software in them, and software encodes game-theoretical strategies as well as it encodes any other form of applied mathematics, and the temptation to teach products to lie strategically will be as impossible to resist for companies in the near future as it has been to VW, steep as their punishment seems to be. As it has always happened (and always will) in the area of financial fraud, they'll just find ways to do it better. [...]

So the fact is that our experience of the world will increasingly come to reflect our experience of our computers and of the internet itself (not surprisingly, as it'll be infused with both). Just as any user feels their computer to be a fairly unpredictable device full of programs they've never installed doing unknown things to which they've never agreed to benefit companies they've never heard of, inefficiently at best and actively malignant at worst (but how would you know?), cars, street lights, and even buildings will behave in the same vaguely suspicious way. Is your self-driving car deliberately slowing down to give priority to the higher-priced models? Is your green A/C really less efficient with a thermostat from a different company, or it's just not trying as hard? And your tv is supposed to only use its camera to follow your gestural commands, but it's a bit suspicious how it always offers Disney downloads when your children are sitting in front of it.

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